The Living Stipend: Strategies to Live and Save on the Grad Student Stipend

This section of the blog is where we take a moment to address major stress points on a tight budget– either one that’s based on a stipend, part-time income, or any other limited income. Each month, we will address a major expense or expense category and various strategies to reduce costs within that area.

This month, we are looking at strategies for saving on housing and living expenses.

One of the largest expenses built into the standard budget is housing. Particularly for students living in major metropolitan areas where cost of living far exceeds the national average, students and persons with lower incomes will have difficulty trying to manage general living expenses on a limited income. This month, we are looking at four strategies for saving on housing expenses for graduate students surviving on a stipend, and four strategies for saving on utilities.

It’s A Family Affair

Rent from family and contribute to the household in an agreed upon ways. Sometimes, family will cut you a deal on rent, or allow you to contribute in other ways (paying for groceries or utilities for the home, cleaning, childcare, etc.) that allow you to further your goals while assisting with their costs.

A Little Less Luxury

Consider adjusting the space that you’re living in: downsize or live in a less comfortable space. To do this, you can do three things:

  • Live in an Accessory Dwelling Unit (backyard unit) or household apartment (basement or attic)
  • Consider renting a home and subletting rooms or renting as part of a house share: communal or shared space is often not only a great way to save money, but also a great way to expand networks
  • Relocate to a farther home. Increasing your commute can decrease your costs!

Note: while accommodations won’t necessarily be luxurious, never compromise safety and security.


You can also do other items to earn money, like house-sitting for others or managing a property in exchange for housing. If you choose to manage a property, this might be a short-term rental with higher turnover (like an AirBnB) or a longer-term property (like a three-unit apartment building or a larger complex).

Keep your utilities low

  • Change out to energy efficient bulbs and keep your lights off (use natural light!)
  • Temperature Control: Keep your heat down (how chilly can you stand it in the winter? Some have kept the house as chilly as 55 degrees (I recommend in the 60-65 degree range). In the summer, turn off the AC or keep it at a warm 80 degrees to simply click on for the overly hot days.
  • Time your showers! Old school guideline was one song on your favorite CD– why does that have to change just because you’re on Spotify?
  • Don’t forget to negotiate your utilities on a regular basis! Every few months, call and have a discussion with your providers about ways to save on your bills. Often, these companies will offer programs.

How do you keep your living expenses low? Tell us!

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Has one comment to “The Living Stipend: Strategies to Live and Save on the Grad Student Stipend”

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  1. Lester - September 14, 2020 Reply

    Thanks! And thanks for sharing your great posts every week!

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